Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Re-posting Vivaldi's Concerto for 4 Violins in B minor

I was rather disappointed to see that the link I posted to Vivaldi's Concerto for four Violins on 21st February as part of my "music to relax after campaigning" series no longer works.

So here is another recording of the same piece.

(I will see if I can replace the dead link on the original post with a third recording.)

Dealing with The Donald - can we find a sensible way forward

As I have already posted, if the UK wants to have any influence over Donald Trump, it is far more important to be respected by him than to be liked. He made very clear in his book "The Art of the Deal" that he respects people who stand up to him.

(That, incidentally, is one of several reasons why appointing Nigel Farage as British Ambassador to Washington at Trump's suggestion would have been an incredibly silly thing to do.)

There are plenty of people both in America and in the rest of the world, and on both the right and the left of politics, who regard President Trump's executive order regarding travel, as, in the words of a good article on the CAPX site, "a colossal own goal."

Those who have criticised it include fellow Republicans such as Senator Ben Sasse and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who called aspects of its implementation “crazy.”

“I think that the real problem is that it was vetted badly,” said Schwarzenegger.

“I know what he’s trying to accomplish, and his fear about having people come in from other places and cause harm to the country and all of that stuff. But there is another way of going about it to do it the right way and to accomplish still all the same goals. And so I think that they were hasty with it.”

What you would never imagine from the press coverage, however, is that among American voters more people appear to support the ban than oppose it.

No, I have not started taking opinion poll results as gospel, but they are more accurate than going by what a majority of people in either the MSM or social media are writing or just by what you want to believe, and the polls which have been published suggest Trump's travel has polarised America, with a Reuters- IPSOS poll suggesting 49% supported the ban, 41% opposed it and 10% didn't know.

In this country those who want to do some good are racking their brains to know how to make the US think more carefully about this issue, while those who want to feel good about it have organised a student-politics style petition asking for the cancellation of a planned state visit by Donald Trump to Britain, for which no date has yet been set.

Since Trump's executive order is a 90-day temporary measure while the US immigration system is reviewed, and we don't yet have a date for the state visit, it is not clear whether it would fall whether this order is actually in place anyway. But for the sake of argument, let's suppose it does,

Regardless of what you think of their new President the USA is our most important ally and a hugely important trading partner. It would cause huge harm to Britain not to have good relations with the USA. This does not mean that we cannot disagree with the US government but some of those disagreements are best expressed diplomatically in private.

It is particularly unfortunate that some people on both sides have tried to drag Her Majesty the Queen into the debate, as by suggesting she might be embarrassed if she has to meet Mr Trump.


A quick look at some of the people who the Queen has previously had to welcome, after former Prime Ministers invited them to state visits, shows that Her Majesty has been required to roll out the red carpet for

* Mass murderer Robert Mugabe
* Chinese President Xi whose attitude to dissent makes Trump look like a soggy liberal
* Vladimir Putin who has just annexed part of Ukraine, bombed hospitals to atoms in Syria, and whose party at home is in the process of decriminalising wife-beating
* Emperor Hirohito of Japan
* The King of Saudi Arabia (on a subsequent occasion to the one on which she insisted on driving him personally)

If she can cope with meeting them I suspect she can cope with Donald Trump.

You know, it might just possibly be a better idea for those who are unhappy with Trump's policies to let him come here, and then organise a demonstration against his policies when he is here.

Article 50 debate begins

Debate has begun on the bill giving the government the authority to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and thereby implement the referendum decision to take the UK out of the European Union.

If Britain is to remain any sort of functioning democracy this has to go through, and it will.

The credibility of our claim to be a country in whose government rests on the consent of the governed would be blown to bits if, after parliament voted six to one to call a referendum on EU membership, the government promised to implement what the referendum decided and more British people voted to leave than have ever voted in an election or referendum for any other party or cause, politicians were to fail to implement the majority decision.

I gather from several sources such as Conservative Home that Kenneth Clarke delivered a speech which even those who totally disagreed with him thought was brilliant.

But he will probably be the only Conservative who votes against triggering article 50.

There are apparently a huge number of amendments to the bill, some making legitimate points, others which amount to a filibuster or wrecking tactic.

But with the Conservatives almost united and Labour totally all over the shop, I expect the bill to get through the Commons either with no amendments or only with those acceptable to the government.

Noises from the House of Lords suggest their Lordships "get it" that defying the House of Commons on issues where the evidence suggest a majority of the people agreed with the peers rather than MPs is one thing, and something the Lords has got away with in the past, but for the unelected chamber to directly defy the people's wishes as expressed in a referendum would be a suicide mission.

It will be interesting to follow the progress of the bill. But it would be a brave man who was willing to bet his shirt against it becoming law and the Brexit process started before the end of March.

Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's Toccata and Fugue in E Major BWV 566

Quote of the day 31st January 2017

"It's 2017 and liberalism is dead"

Title of an interesting short speech by Rod Liddle (2 minutes and 19 seconds). You can watch and listen to the whole thing on the Newsnight site by following the link below:

Monday, January 30, 2017

One Lib/Dem who gets it

Many Lib/Dems have been in "stop the world, I want to get off" mode since 23rd June last year.

One of the few who recognises that the "Remain" side lost the vote and we have to move on is Ben Andrew who has written an article on a Lib/Dem site here urging his fellow party members to stop peddling "Remainer myths and post-truth politics."

Here are some extracts:

He points out that the idea that another referendum today would produce a remain vote "is a fantasy."

"Poll after poll after poll has shown that Regrexit doesn’t exist – that no more Leavers than Remainers have changed their mind in the aftermath of the referendum."

"And even if Regrexit does exist in a few polls – is it even relevant? Do we reverse election results if people regret them a few months down the line? Would we accept the same argument if Remain had won, and people wished they had voted for leave? Of course not. These arguments are ridiculous."

"And it doesn’t stop there. There are those who argue that we should remain in the EU because enough Leave voters have died since June 23rd to tip public opinion our way (a line of logic which never has, and hopefully never will be used to overturn the result of an election)."

"And then there’s the misleading articles like this which attempt to align those who didn’t vote with those who voted Remain (when they should obviously be considered neutral, as they chose not to cast a vote)"
"Why can’t we just face the truth? Yes the referendum was close, but despite the avalanche of politicians and business people and foreign leaders telling us to vote Remain, the British people voted to leave, and they don’t seem to regret it."

"We certainly aren’t the only people who are guilty of this kind of wilful denial. We regularly laugh at Momentum activists who claim that Corbyn’s on track for victory; UKIP voters who think that reducing migration will save the NHS; and Trump supporters who believe that globalisation can be reversed with the click of his fingers."

"But they’re laughing at us too. Because so many of us are making unsubtantiated claims about the public opinion on Brexit, which circulate around our echo chamber to make us feel better, but carry no factual weight whatsoever. Post-truth politics is one of the most dangerous trends in our democracy right now. We should be fighting against it, not joining in."

Nice to know there does appear to be at least one Lib/Dem with a working brain. Hope his party leader reads the article.

Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's - Toccata and Fugue in D minor

Balanced news? Balanced protest?

In the past few days two things have been done by the governments of major powers which I have a lot of concerns about.

I won't bother linking to the story of Donald Trump's executive order about immigration from seven countries as nobody reading this can possibly be unaware of it. A million people have signed a petition to block him from making a state visit to Britain as a result.

But did you know that Russia's equivalent of the House of Commons, the Duma, has just voted by 380 to 3 to make domestic violence legal?

When I first read on Twitter that this proposal was coming forward I wondered if it was a joke or fake news but the progress of this bill has been reported by a few serious news channels as  here in The Economist magazine. But not nearly as comprehensively as Trump's travel ban.

But I spent some time looking for an -up=to-date account of the story on the BBC website and could not find one - the most recent they appear to have is this story dated 25th January at which point the bill had been given it's second reading but not yet completed its passage through the lower house, which it did on Friday.

Nor have I found an up-to-date report about it in the Guardian. They did report on 19th January the horror of women's groups that this sickening proposals was coming forward. And on Wednesday that the bill had  passed an earlier stage. But if they have written anything about the story in the three days since the lower house of the Russian parliament actually passed the bill, I cannot find it.

I don't know that it is easy to look at two dreadful proposals on different subjects by different governments and say "this one is worse than that one."

Personally I'm not terribly happy about either.

But I think we should ask ourselves why our news channels including most of social media are giving a lot of attention to the fact that President Trump has signed a very illiberal travel order and virtually none to the fact that Russian legislators are in the process of something very close to the legalisation of wife-beating.

27 MPs with a consistency problem

Hat tip to Guido Fawkes for pointing out the 27 MPs who voted for the bill to call the EU referendum but now say they will vote against the Article 50 bill to implement the result:

Owen Smith, Geraint Davies, Thangam Debbonaire, Peter Kyle, Neil Coyle, Daniel Zeichner, Tulip Siddiq, David Lammy, Catherine West, Helen Hayes, Kerry McCarthy, Ben Bradshaw, Jim Dowd, Mike Gapes, Rupa Huq, Ian Murray, Karen Buck, Jeff Smith, Ann Coffey, Vicky Foxcroft, Louise Ellman, Stephen Timms, Tom Brake, Tim Farron, Mark Williams, Alistair Carmichael and Caroline Lucas [Source: Hansard]

These MPs are all Labour, Lib/Dem, or Green. The one Tory MP who has said he will vote against Article 50, Ken Clarke, did not vote for the referendum. The SNP, who for once have been consistent, didn't vote for the referendum either.

Whatever else you may say about him Ken Clarke has always been consistent. The SNP were consistent on this issue, but the 27 MPs listed above have not.

These people only appear to approve of democracy if it comes down on their side ....

Second quote of the day 30th January 2017

Most amusing ironic tweet from John Rentoul, chief political correspondent of the Independent:

"The way the government is trying to railroad Brexit through parliament with only 69 debates so far is a disgrace ..."

He showed a list of the debates which have taken place so far, and then linked to the Hose of Commons Library page with details of the Article 50 bill at:


Quote of the day 30th January 2017

"We are in the most ludicrous, unreal, pretend, unreal b******* position as an opposition"

This quote is from Labour MP Lucy Powell, who is a former front-bencher and was Chief of Staff to Ed Miliband, in a WhatsApp message she accidentally sent this week to a wider circulation than extended.

Still a circulation entirely consisting of Labour MPs but one of them evidently found the idea of leaking the story to the press irresistible.

The most damning aspect of this is not the fact that a Labour MP had this very low opinion of her party's position - embarrassing though that is, you always get some extreme disagreements from time to time in any party.

The fact that Lucy Powell apparently had not intended to be forthcoming with the public about what she really thought on the issue concerned is a more serious matter, though this is not the worst of the story either.

The British constitution provides for something called "collective responsibility" which means that all the members of a government accept responsibility for what the government does: the safety valve in the constitution is that if you really cannot accept something or defend it, you resign from the government and then you can make your position clear. Resignation speeches can bring down even the most powerful Prime Ministers so this means they have to make some effort to listen to their ministers if they want to stay in the job.

Lucy Powell is an opposition MP not a member of the government, and she had already resigned from the Labour front bench. So she is not covered by "collective responsibility."

But the most damning aspect of this story is the fact that nobody is surprised that, after Powell accidentally sent this message via WhatsApp to a much larger group of Labour MPs than she intended, it immediately appeared in the press.

In other words, we're all taking it for granted that one of the Corbynista MPs would rather see this message in the public domain where it will damage someone they consider "Blairite" (or even, horror of horrors, a "red Tory") than resist the temptation to leak it, even though the resulting publicity will have damaged not just Powell but the Labour party and allowed people like me to write articles and blog posts like this.

Governments need to work together. Any party in which the different factions will grab any opportunity to harm one another even if it harms the party is not in a position to form a government. Labour's problem is wider than just Jeremy Corbyn: even without him, while they are fighting one another like this there is no chance that Labour could form a coherent government able to successfully run Britain. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Last call for Cumbria-Wide Conservative Association ballot

If anyone reading this is a member of any of the six Conservative associations in Cumbria, and has not yet returned their ballot papers for the vote on the proposed Cumbria-Wide Conservative Association, can I please urge you to find time before the post goes tomorrow to fill in your ballot paper and return it to Kendal Conservative Office in the pre-paid envelope provided.

The ballot closes at noon on Wednesday 1st February 2017.

The six constituency chairmen in Cumbria have issued a message to all members thanking the hundreds of people who have already voted and strongly encouraging those who have not yet done so to return their ballot papers and vote "Yes."

The current Copeland By Election - in which all six associations in Cumbria have given fantastic support to the campaign - demonstrates what we can achieve if we work together. The proposed pilot for a Cumbria-Wide association will help us to do that more effectively.

For any party activist from elsewhere in the country reading this who is familiar with the language of the Feldman Review, the proposal is for a pilot MCA (Multi-Constituency Association), but we have called it a Cumbria-Wide Conservative Association because we wanted to use language which would explain more clearly to our own members what is actually proposed.

This is a really exciting proposal, which we had started working on before the national party came up with a similar idea which we have latched onto - and the initiative came from Cumbria, it is not something that CCHQ have told us to do.

Individual constituency organisations will keep control of their own funds and assets and retain the right to pick their own candidates to be MPs or councillors for their own patch. The aim is not to remove the autonomy of individual parts of the county but to support one another in campaigning together much more effectively. We need the support of members in all parts of the county to make this work so I would urge you to return your ballot paper if you have not already done so, and please vote YES.

Clarification of the US Travel ban

The British government has released today a statement about President Trump's Executive Order restricting travel to or through the USA from seven named countries.

Full text of the statement is available at


but the key points are:

"The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has today held conversations with the US Government and as a result we can clarify that:
  • The Presidential executive order only applies to individuals travelling from one of the seven named countries.
  • If you are travelling to the US from anywhere other than one of those countries (for instance, the UK) the executive order does not apply to you and you will experience no extra checks regardless of your nationality or your place of birth.
  • If you are a UK national who happens to be travelling from one of those countries to the US, then the order does not apply to you – even if you were born in one of those countries.
  • If you are a dual citizen of one of those countries travelling to the US from OUTSIDE those countries then the order does not apply to you.
The only dual nationals who might have extra checks are those coming from one of the seven countries themselves – for example a UK-Libya dual national coming from Libya to the US.

The US has reaffirmed its strong commitment to the expeditious processing of all travellers from the United Kingdom."

Snow in Cumbria

We don't often get snow on the ground in Whitehaven. My family will have lived in the town for twelve years this year, and I think the number of snowfalls which have settled in all that time is still well inside single figures.

However, there was one this morning. with a thin layer of snow and ice everywhere at dawn including on footpaths and roads.

Most of the ice, particularly on roads and paths, ahs now melted but there is still some about, so take care if you are out and about in Cumbria today.

The Death of Logic

I agree with the concerns expressed by Republican Senator Ben Sasse in my quote of the day about the Travel order signed by President Trump and with the concerns expressed by Communities Secretary Savid Javid.

It is important that we use diplomatic and other channels to express those concerned to the US administration.

One protest, however, that I will not be signing, is the petition to ban President Trump from making a state visit to the UK.

The people signing this want to ban him from coming to our country as a protest against him banning people from coming to his country.

Have they really thought through how silly that sounds?

Sunday music spot: Eccard's "When to the Temple Mary Went"

Today the Christian church celebrates the feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. This lovely anthem was written by the composer Eccard for this festival: it is also sometimes sung at Epiphany. (The "Nunc Dimittis" commemorates the same event.)

I previously posted one recording of the beautiful piece at Epiphany three weeks ago: here is another performance, a recording sung by the choir of King's College Cambridge.

Quote of the day 29th January 2017

Republican Senator Ben Sasse takes a very balanced and sensible view on the Trump travel ban:

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Another great day's campaigning

I spent most of today in Millom organising campaigning for the Copeland by-election. Despite the rain we managed to get a lot done to support the excellent Conservative candidate Trudy Harrison (left in this picture and centre in the first Egremont and Whitehaven photograph below:

Thanks to our kind and helpful hosts at Millom Conservative club, and thanks to those who helped, both those from Copeland constituency and those who came to help us from elsewhere - today in Millom we were particularly grateful for help from Barrow Conservatives.

Millom was one of three campaign centres today: here are some of the people who helped us campaign in the Millom area:

And here are some of the people who helped us campaign in the Keswick area:

And some of the people who helped us campaign in Whitehaven and Egremont: including a strong contingent of Scottish tories led by Ruth Davidson:


Overall we had about a hundred people out today despite the rain. This by election looks likely to be close down to the wire so every bit of help is appreciated: watch this space!

Party Chairman Patrick McLoughlin writes ...

Sir Patrick McLoughlin, Chairman of the Conservative Party, writes as follows:
Special January Members' bulletin

"We may only be a few weeks into 2017, but we are already getting on with the important work of governing our country and delivering on the key commitments that we have made to the British people.
In a major speech on the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union last week, the Prime Minister outlined the Government’s 12 negotiating objectives. You can watch the Prime Minister’s full speech here.


Earlier in the month the Prime Minister set out a package of reforms to improve mental health support at every stage of a person’s life, not just in our hospitals, but in our classrooms, at work and in our communities.

You can find out more here.


The Labour MPs in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central have decided to leave Parliament, triggering two by-elections to be held on Thursday 23rd February.
Our members in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central have selected two fantastic candidates in Trudy Harrison and Jack Brereton respectively.

Members around the country can make a huge difference to our campaigns in Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central by signing up to make telephone canvassing calls from home.

Help us take the fight to Labour in their heartland by signing up here. 


The Conservative Party Archive is the only place which houses and preserves the materials and documents from the Conservative Parliamentary Party, the voluntary wing of Party Activists and CCHQ.
Thank you for your support,

Patrick McLoughli
Chairman of the Conservative Party "

Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

Music to relax after campaigning: Bach's Fugue in G minor BWV 578

Quote of the day 28th January 2017

"Years ago we had an aircraft missile called the Seaslug missile and we fired one into Wales."
"Those sort of things happen but you don't go and talk to the prime minister about that, unless their constituency happens to be there."

(Labour peer Admiral Lord West giving evidence to the Commons Defence Committee on Tuesday. as reported It is believed he was referring to a missile test incident in Cardigan Bay in 1958, when a missile crashed into a hillside.)

The point of this quote is that if you want to be confident that your military systems are working properly, like anything else, you have to check them or test them. Obviously you do test fire missiles without a live warhead and you test weapons well away from innocent people - so for example the Eskmeals MoD firing range in Copeland has big signs on the perimeter warning people to keep out.

You test things to the limit and it's the tests where things don't work perfectly that enable you to improve the system.

And only a total idiot - a category which apparently includes most of the people who have been criticising the government this week over Trident - would make it easier for the enemies of our country to find ways to defeat our weapon systems buy publishing detailed results of such tests.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Lest we forget: remembering the Holocaust

As I posted this morning, today is Holocaust Memorial Day.

There are two opposite errors we can make in respect of ghastly events like the Nazi Holocaust or indeed any other genocide.

One is to remember in a way which fuels the cycle of hate: the other is to try to forget.

I firmly believe that if we insist that terrible crimes like Hitler's "final solution" must never be forgotten similar events are less likely to recur - provided we also remember that there are good and bad people in any race or other category of human beings and that seeking revenge for perceived past wrongs not against individuals but against entire races was the main cause of the catastrophe.

Those who died at the hands of the Nazis, and the victims of every other genocide, should be remembered not as symbols or as part of a collective group, but as individual human beings, each of whose deaths cost the world a unique and precious life, snuffed out by hatred.

There is an excellent piece in the Guardian today which quotes the stories of six of the few remaining Holocaust survivors, which you can read at


What impresses me most about these stories is how little anger and hate these writers display. This is enormously to their credit. Perhaps next time we are tempted to get angry with people for, say, expressing an opinion which we don't happen to share of voting in a way which we think is foolish, it might be worth thinking about the way these people who have suffered so much more than most of us respond to it.

We must try to remember the horrors of genocide, but with sorrow, not with hate.

Music to relax after campaigning: Parry's "I Was Glad"

Tam Dalyell RIP

Tam Dalyell, who was MP for West Lothian and then Linlithgow for a combined period of 43 years and ultimately became father of the House of Commons has died at the age of 84.

He was a man of the most extraordinary contradictions who will probably best be remembered for first posting what became known as the "West Lothian Question" about devolution, of which he was a passionate opponent.

I totally disagree with his views on a great many issues, and it is only the wish to obey my own rules about obituary posts which prevents me from expressing that thought in intemperate language.

However, few even among his worst enemies would deny that he combined great independence of mind with enormous moral courage and a great deal of integrity.

His views were his own, never fitting neatly into any category, and nothing in the world could stop him expressing them.

I suspect his parliamentary colleagues, those like him who sat on the Labour benches or those who were members of any other party, would disagree about which issues he was right about and which issues he was wrong about.

But I also suspect that few of them would disagree with the following description: he was wrong on many things and when he was badly wrong be could be almost unhinged, but when he was right he was magnificent.

The House of Commons was poorer when he retired from it, and our country too.

Rest in Peace.

More good economic news

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has confirmed that the UK economy grew by 0.6% in the final quarter of 2016, for the third quarter in a row, making Britain's growth the fastest in the G7.

The economy grew by 0.6% in the October-to-December period, the same rate as in the previous two quarters, according to an initial estimate from the Office for National Statistics.

The figure indicates that the feared economic slowdown following the Brexit vote has not materialised. For 2016 as whole, the economy grew by 2%, down from 2.2% in 2015.

"Strong consumer spending supported the expansion of the dominant services sector," said ONS statistician Darren Morgan.
"Although manufacturing bounced back from a weaker third quarter - both it and construction remained broadly unchanged over the year as a whole."

Quote of the day for Holocaust Memorial Day 27th January 2017

Today is the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and is commemorated in Britain and many other nations as Holocaust Memorial Day, when we remember all victims of genocide.

It seems appropriate therefore that today's quote of the day should be from one of the millions of innocent victims of the Nazi Holocaust.

"In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit."

(Anne Frank)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

PM Theresa May's speech to Congressional Republicans

Jeremy Corbyn refuses to commit to support Moorside new nuclear plant in Copeland

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has refused give any commitment or indication whether if he supports the creation of a new nuclear power station at Moorside in west Cumbria.

In an interview with  ITV Border's Dan Hewitt ahead of the Copeland by-election, the Labour leader said that he recognised that nuclear facilities would exist for a long time as part of the future energy mix, but he would not commit to the idea of any new development in the constituency.

Asked repeatedly whether he would support a new power station at Moorside he would only indicate that reprocessing plants (like Sellafield) would have to exist "for as long as there is reprocessing going on" but declined to give a specific yes or no on whether he would back a new nuclear power station in the Copeland constituency, describing the question of whether Moorside is likely to be approved in "about 2018" as "a bit unclear."

The nuclear industry is a major employer in West Cumbria. If Nugen's proposal to build the nuclear power station at Moorside goes ahead, it would create around 21,000 jobs.

The following exchange was recorded as part of an interview with the Labour leader. Let me warn any Labour activists working on the Copeland by-election campaign to make sure you are sitting down and have taken two aspirin before watching or reading it.

  • (DH) "In 2015 you said 'I'm opposed to new nuclear. New nuclear power will mean the continued production of dangerous nuclear waste'... do you support the building of a new nuclear power plant at Moorside in Copeland?"
(Jeremy Corbyn) There's going to be a mix of energy production in this country for a long time to come, because we haven't invested in renewables at the same rate that Germany has, we support Sellafield. The issue of Moorside is clearly important, our local candidate strongly supports Moorside, the Government has got to make a decision on that in... probably 2018 because there are financial problems that Toshiba are facing at the present time, so it's a bit unclear.
  • (DH)"You say your candidate supports it, my question was do you support it?"
(Jeremy Corbyn) I recognise that there has to be a mix of energy production in this country. So that means, there has to be a mix of energy production in this country. I, like everybody else, want to make sure there is energy suppliers for everybody in the future.
  • (DH) "For people watching at home that know that Moorside will create 21,000 new jobs in Copleand, in a constituency so heavily dependant on nuclear, you're saying you don't support Moorside...?"
(Jeremy Corbyn) No I didn't say that, I said the Government is going to have to... to have to make that decision on the basis of the issues facing the company and the area at the time and we are some way off that.
  • (DH) "For most of your political career, you've been, at best, lukewarm towards the nuclear power industry. How do you convince voters, in a constituency so heavily dependant on that industry, that you are the man, you are the party, that they should now vote for?"
(Jeremy Corbyn) Sellafield is a major employer in the area, Sellafield workers are being very badly treated by this Government and indeed there is a dispute going on at the very moment about the pension arrangements in Sellafield. We support those workers, we support the Sellafield re-processing plant, it's going to be there for a very long time to come because there's a great deal of re-processing to be done, and we support those workers and indeed I met a number of them when I was in Copeland last week and they are very clear that we support Sellafield, we recognise its importance to the local economy, and we'll be working with it. And I suggest the Government, they treat those workers properly and don't try and cream off their pensions.
  • (DH) Do you accept that that is a slight change in tack from what you've said for the past thirty years of your career?
(Jeremy Corbyn) No, not at all. Sellafield has to exist. There has to be processing.

Source: the ITV website, with a slightly longer transcript of the interview at http://www.itv.com/news/border/2017-01-26/no-commitment-from-corbyn-on-moorside-nuclear-plans/

Government takes action to protect everyone from Hate crime.

Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day 2017, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has today (26 January 2017) announced £375,000 of new funding to further encourage the reporting and prevention of hate crime.

The new package will be targeted at a range of existing organisations, working with faith and minority communities that have historically faced challenges in reporting hate crime. These include race and faith groups and those working at challenging the prejudice towards people from alternative subcultures.

The extra support will build upon the wide reaching work the government is already doing to reduce hate crime, increase reporting and improve support for victims. It builds on the £1 million of support directed at young people announced as part of the government’s Hate Crime Action Plan last summer.

Mr Javid was due to set out details of the new funding in a speech at The Anne Frank Trust Annual Lunch to mark Holocaust Memorial Day in London today, before hosting the UK Commemorative Ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said:
"Holocaust Memorial Day is a stark and important reminder of what can happen when hate and intolerance spirals out of control and specific groups are targeted simply because they are different.
These funds build upon what government is already doing through the Hate Crime Action Plan to challenge the misperceptions that lead to hate crime and support victims from marginalised communities to stand up and report incidents. 
Let me be clear. Hate crime has no place whatsoever in British society. We will not stand for it. All communities must be able to live their lives free from fear of verbal or physical attack."

Resurfacing of Coach Road continues: Foxhouses Road now two-way

The re-surfacing work on Coach Road, Whitehaven continues and the Eastern end of the road at the junctions with Back Corkickle and Station Road are still closed to vehicles.

To make it easier for people to get from Mirehouse and Valley Park into the Town centre the County Council has temporarily made the northern half of Foxhouses Road two-way instead of one-way southbound, so please watch out for traffic coming out of Foxhouses Road if you are driving on Inkerman Terrace.

Quote of the day 26th January 2017

As last night was Burns Night, here is the top Burns Night joke of all time ...

"A new English doctor is being shown around a Scottish hospital.

The last ward he is taken to visit contains a number of patients who show no obvious signs of injury. He goes to examine the first man he sees, and the man proclaims:

'Fair fa' yer honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain e' the puddin' race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
  painch tripe or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
  as lang's my arm.'

The Englishman, somewhat taken aback, goes to the next patient, and immediately the patient launches into:

'Some hae meat, and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.'

This continues with the next patient, who proclaims:

'Wee sleekit cow'rin tim'rous beastie,
O what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
  wi' bickering brattle.
I wad be laith to run and chase thee,
  wi' murdering prattle!"'

"Well," the English doctor mutters to his Scottish colleague, "I see you saved the psychiatric ward for the last."

"Nay, nay," the Scottish doctor corrected him,

 "this is the Serious Burns unit."

— Source: Rampant Scotland, Scottish Snippets, 23-Feb-02

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Trudy Harrison selected as Conservative Candidate for the Copeland by-election

Trudy Harrison has been selected as the Conservative parliamentary candidate for the Copeland by-election.

Trudy, 40, lives in the village of Bootle with her husband Keith, a welder who works in the nuclear industry, and four daughters, who were all born at West Cumberland Hospital. She is a local champion with a track record of delivering for her community. Her commitment to her home area has seen more than £4 million invested there since 2010.

As mother of  four teenage girls and having spent time working for Copeland Borough Council and at Sellafield, Trudy is passionate about the benefits of young people engaging in part-time work. In response to the threat of closure of her local primary school, Trudy led a campaign to breathe new life into her village for future generations.

Commenting on her selection, Trudy Harrison said:

“This important by-election is an opportunity for the people of Copeland to send a message that the referendum result must be respected.

“Copeland has had Labour MPs and Labour Councils for years. They’ve ignored us and failed to deliver the jobs, infrastructure and services we need, and now they want to ignore how we voted in the referendum.

“I look forward to meeting as many local residents as possible in the coming weeks and setting out how voting Conservative this time will support our local nuclear industry, and deliver the investment Copeland deserves.”

Good luck to Trudy in the election: she will have my 100% support and effort. I know she will make a fantastic candidate and I hope she will be the next MP for Copeland in which capacity she will do a brilliant job.

Copeland to benefit from LEP investment as government gives £12.7 million to Cumbria

The government announced earlier this week a further £12.7 million of taxpayers' money for Cumbria through an allocation called "Growth Deal 3" (on top of £47.7m already secured in previous Growth Deal rounds), which could see 4,000 jobs created, 3,000 homes built and attract £100 million extra investment over the next 5 years.

A substantial proportion of this money is coming to Copeland as the Board of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, the county’s strategic economic body, has set out plans for five major investment programmes, including £5m for developments at Lillyhall North, £4.5m for improvements to Whitehaven Town Centre, and £1m for Carlisle Station Gateway and the Citadels.

The investment programmes are as follows:
  • Lillyhall North – £5,000,000 to develop the employment site, create and safeguard jobs and provide new workspace
  • Whitehaven Town Centre – £4,500,000 investment for commercial office development
  • Carlisle Station Gateway and the Citadels – £1,000,000 investment for commercial development
  • Skills Capital 2 – £1,160,000 to deliver Cumbria Skills Implementation Plan projects and support Area-Based Review process
  • Growing Our Potential 2 – £1,000,000 for grants to help small business
The Local Enterprise Partnership will seek alternative sources of funding for other major projects in the county such as road improvements and future flood resilience programmes.

Jackie Arnold, Vice Chair of the Board at Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, said:

“We welcome the chance to apply the Government’s Growth Deal funding allocation to key projects at Lillyhall North, Whitehaven Town Centre, and Carlisle Station Gateway and the Citadels, as well as for our Skills Capital 2 and Growing Our Potential 2 programmes.  They will bring substantial economic benefits to the county."

Welcoming the plans, Penrith MP, Rory Stewart, said:

“This is a welcome plan that will deliver more high-skilled, high wage jobs and support Cumbria’s industries.

“Local businesses and workers have the chance to contribute to this vision and submit their views to help us create a high-skilled economy in the county where businesses can grow and more jobs are created.

“This strategy will ensure we are backing business locally and ensure more people share in the benefits of its success.”

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said:

“This is an important step in building a modern, dynamic Industrial Strategy that will improve living standards and drive economic growth across Cumbria.

“We need to build on the UK’s strengths and extend excellence into the future; close the gap between the UK’s most productive companies, industries, places and people and the rest; and ensure we are one of the most competitive places in the world to start and grow a business.

“The North West has a world-leading reputation in a number of the UK’s best sectors and industries. Through our Industrial Strategy and investment in the Northern Powerhouse we plan to build on the Cumbria’s strengths, creating new jobs in other industries.”

For further details about Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, go to www.cumbrialep.co.uk

More details of this story on the Cumbria Crack website here.

Janan Ganesh in the FT on how to deal with populists

Janan Ganesh has a good article in the FT here about how mainstream politicians should respond to the destructive kind of politics, which you can read here.

A sample quote from the article:

"Populists are at their weakest in the tedious matter of sound government. In a contest of gut values and group loyalties they have the confidence and the numbers. Why let them play at home?" 

Quote of the day 25th January 2017

"Better to be respected than liked"

Extracts from an article in the "Bagehot" column of "The Economist" magazine on how Britain should deal with the Trump administration, which you can read in full here.

"Mr Trump’s world is one of muscular conflicts of interest; brute, zero-sum tests of leverage, self-confidence and guile. Sycophancy and flattery may buy one a place in his court but the evidence suggests it comes at the cost of real influence.

If he is solicitous towards Vladimir Putin it is not because the Russian president sucks up to him (in fact his public pronouncements have been cooly non-committal) but because he is a strongman who seems to get his way. Mr Trump admires that.

If he is angry about China, he also commends its leaders’ canny policies. In other words, he respects those who stand up for their interests.

This is the main message ofThe Art of the Deal”:
  • The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it. That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you're dead”; 
  • You have to believe in yourself or no one else will”;
  • When somebody challenges you, fight back. Be brutal, be tough.”
All of which begs the question: could the new president’s early encounters with Britain’s fawning establishment turn out to have made him a less, not more, accommodating partner in the long term? Why ever cede ground to a government that instinctively gives it up for free?"

"This is not to say Mrs May should seek conflict with Mr Trump. Far from it. The prime minister was right to send two chiefs of staff to New York last month to meet the transition team. She is also right to visit Washington, D.C. early in his presidency (the dates will be made public soon after today’s inauguration).

But she should do so while clarifying and sticking to certain red lines; principles by which she intends to conduct the partnership and ensure it serves Britain’s interests. Mrs Merkel’s response to the election result—looking forward to cooperation “on the basis” of “common values”—points to the conditional sort of friendship London should seek.

If we know one thing about America’s colourful new president, it is that he does not do long-term alliances or sentimental friendships. He does case-by-case deals. This transactional world, his world, will now circumscribe the transatlantic relationship. And in this world it is better to be respected than liked."

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Music to relax after campaigning: 'Winter'; 1st Movement - Vivaldi

Government statement on Article 50

Following the Supreme Court's ruling on the Article 50 challenge, the government has issued this statement.

I made my view clear before the referendum that whatever the result was, the government should keep their promise to implement the democratic decision of the majority, and I stand by that.

The difference between myself and those who want to try to stop Britain leaving the EU is not about Europe, it is about democracy.

I strongly disagree with anyone who supported the challenge because they thought parliament should overturn the decision of the British people, but the people who brought the action had the right under the law to do so and the judges had the duty to rule, not on whether Britain should leave the EU or not but on what the law says about who has the authority to make that decision.

I am entirely relaxed about the fact that the judges decided it is parliament, for two reasons.

First, the whole point of the main argument made by people who voted leave was for the British people, through their representatives in parliament, to take back control. Anything which makes parliament stronger helps to do that.

Second, I am confident that parliament will respect the decision of the majority. There are just too many MPs who represent constituencies where the majority voted "Leave" for there to be any realistic chance that the House of Commons will vote against triggering Article 50.

The House of Lords has a pro-Remain majority who would love to stop Britain leaving the EU, but they too have made it clear that they will not stop article fifty being moved for a simple reason. The House of Lords will often go against the House of Commons when they believe that on the specific issue concerned the public are with them and not with MPs. Especially when it was not part of the governing party's election manifesto and the "Salisbury convention" that the unelected House does not stop an elected government from carrying out an election promise doesn't apply.

But on Europe, the House of Lords know that if they try to stop Britain leaving the EU they are going against, not the House of Commons, but the people. And as it was in the Conservative manifesto to hold a referendum on British membership of the EU and respect the result, the Lords would be breaking the Salisbury Convention as well.

So I expect the government to get a bill through the Commons and the Lords before the end of March giving them the authority to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty and thereby begin the process of leaving the EU.

What may make things more complicated, and is harder to predict, is whether the bill might be amended to put conditions on requiring the government to adopt particular tactics or to consult parliament about their negotiating strategy.

It is difficult to know how likely this is to work, not least because Labour is all over the place on what amendments it will support.

I will offer a prediction that amendments which appear likely to have the effect of requiring the government to provide more information to parliament about the negotiations and listen to the views of parliament but which do not appear inflexible enough to make the negotiating process unmanageable might stand a chance of being passed, but anything which looks like a "wrecking amendment" - in other words, an attempt to sabotage the negotiations - will be defeated.

Party Chairman Patrick McLoughin attack's Labour anti-nuclear financial deal

Conservative Party Chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin has urged the Labour Party to stand up for the people of Copeland and end their financial partnership with anti-nuclear company, Ecotricity.

Following reports in the Sun here, that Labour’s by-election campaign in Copeland is being bankrolled by an anti-nuclear energy firm, Patrick McLoughlin has written to both Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour candidate, Gillian Troughton.

Writing separately to both, he urges them to reconsider the financial arrangement where the party receives £50 for every member that switches to Ecotricity, stating the deal ‘demonstrates a flagrant disregard for the people of Copeland’.

Ecotricity has called for nuclear power plants to be closed in 2025. These plans would have devastating consequences for the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing complex and other civil nuclear facilities which employ 12,000 people in Copeland. They would also block the creation of Moorside Nuclear Power Plant which is planned to bring 21,000 new jobs to the area.

Conservative Party Chairman Patrick McLoughlin MP said:

“If the Labour candidate cannot stand up for the nuclear industry then she cannot represent Copeland.

“Rather than supporting ordinary working people, Labour are lining their own pockets. The nuclear industry supports thousands of jobs across the country and Labour is happy to turn this off.

“They have a leader who wants nuclear power plants decommissioned and won’t back the new development at Moorside that would create thousands of jobs – it’s clear they are only interested in investing in themselves.

“The Conservatives are the only party that will deliver the vital investment that will provide the jobs and better services that ordinary working Cumbrians deserve.”

Here is Patrick McLoughlin out and about in Bransty ward, Whitehaven early this morning with local Conservative activists during a visit to the Copeland constituency

Left to right: Copeland Conservatives chairman Arthur Lamb, me, Rt. Hon Sir Patrick McLoughlin, Bransty Councillor Graham Roberts, Andrew Wonnacott, and Egremont councillor Jean Lewthwaite

Copeland by-election formally called for 23rd February

The Copeland by-election has now formally been called for Thursday 23rd February 2017.

The notice of election which was published this morning can be read here.

The full timetable is available here and other information relating to the election on the Copeland Council website at http://www.copeland.gov.uk/content/parliamentary-election-2017.

I am tempted to say "Let battle commence!" Of course we have been working hard to campaign in the seat for weeks but now the campaign proper, what is known in electoral terms as the "short campaign" can finally get under way over the next 48 hours.

Quote of the day 24th January 2017

Monday, January 23, 2017

PM comes to North West to launch Industrial Strategy

The Prime Minister brought the cabinet to the North West today, and made a speech outlining her new Industrial Strategy.

The government will be "stepping up to a new, active role", Mrs May said.

The plan was published in a green paper as she held her first regional cabinet meeting in the north-west of England.

Broadband, transport and energy are highlighted in a bid to "align central government infrastructure investment with local growth priorities".

The 10-point plan involves:
  • Investing in science, research and innovation
  • Developing skills
  • Upgrading infrastructure
  • Supporting business to start and grow
  • Improving government procurement
  • Encouraging trade and inward investment
  • Delivering affordable energy and clean growth
  • Cultivating world-leading sectors
  • Driving growth across the whole country
  • Creating the right institutions to bring together sectors and places
"Underpinning this strategy is a new approach to government, not just stepping back and leaving business to get on with the job, but stepping up to a new, active role that backs business and ensures more people in all corners of the country share in the benefits of its success,"  said the prime minister,

"This active government will build on Britain's strategic strengths and tackle our underlying weaknesses, like low productivity."

The green paper sets out ways in which the government can provide support to businesses by addressing regulatory barriers, agreeing trade deals and helping to establish institutions that encourage innovation and skills development.

Mrs May also plans to boost STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills, digital skills and numeracy, including extending specialist maths schools, while £170m will be invested in creating new institutes of technology.

Business leaders welcomed the plan, which also aims to boost life sciences and low-emission vehicles.

Music to relax after campaigning: " The Trumpet Shall Sound" from Handel's Messiah

PM to announce more cash for Technical Education today

During a trip to the North West today Theresa May will announce that an additional £170 million of taxpayer's money will be made available for Technical education.

This new injection of cash into technical education forms part of her plan for a new industrial strategy for the UK

Prime Minister Theresa May will launch the £170m in new funding when she unveils a Green Paper consultation on the industrial strategy during a trip to the North West of England on Monday.

The money will be used to provide training for the “high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future,” she will emphasise, while also aiming at tackling regional differences in performance.

The government plans to open Institutes of Technology to provide higher-level, non-university education in science, technology, engineering and maths (also known as Stem) subjects. It hopes to boost the prestige of non-academic subjects in the process.

More details here.

Coach Road Whitehaven closes for repairs today for four days

Coach Road in Whitehaven will be closed for repairs for four days from today (23rd January 2017).

This is likely to cause significant traffic disruption in the town particularly to those trying to get from the town centre to the Valley Park and Mirehouse areas or vice versa and there may also be knock-on effects on Inkerman Terrace and Low Road.

If you have to drive through Whitehaven this week, it would probably be a good idea to allow a little longer for your journey.

A signed diversion route will be in operation and traffic marshals will be on site during working hours to advise and assist with any access requirements. Cumbria Highways have said that access for pedestrians and dismounted cyclists will be maintained throughout.
Anyone with enquiries about the work should call the Cumbria Highways Hotline on 0300 3032992.

Quote of the day 23rd January 2017

After the inauguration of the 45th President of the USA, a quote from one of the most successful US presidents of my lifetime, Ronald Reagan:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Say what you like about politicians, but their kids should be off limits

I don't care who is the target, and I don't care who does it; attacking someone through their children is out of order.

Any decision which a politician has made while carrying out the functions of a public office is a legitimate target. If you don't agree with a politician's views, it's legitimate to say so. If you think they have failed to declare a conflict of interest which might affect how they do their job, it is fair to mention that too.

Going after someone's family or private life, unless you can clearly show that they have misused their position (putting a family member on the taxpayer-funded payroll for a job they are not actually doing, for instance) is another matter.

And going after the children of political candidates for things which have no relevance to any political stance or decision by their parents is quite simply wrong and unacceptable.

Just in case anyone reading this is putting two and two together and making fourteen, the "story" published today about the offspring of a local politician in West Cumbria was not about a Conservative and the people who published it are not connected with my party either.

We have more than enough totally legitimate arguments to use against our opponents without descending to the level of attacking them through their children.

I'm not going to write any more about the specifics of the "story" which prompted me to write this because those people who have already seen it will know exactly what I'm getting at and I don't want to inspire anyone else to start looking for it.

While the use of "dirty tricks" against adults who have chosen to get involved in politics and particularly candidates for public office is never justified, at least when it is directed against the candidates or office holders themselves it is being deployed against people who have chosen to put themselves in a position where they know they should expect scrutiny of their actions and statements.

The children of candidates and people holding public office have made no such choice. And as a father myself, the idea of trying to use someone's children as weapons against them makes me feel physically sick.

No political campaigner, of whatever party, should ever seek to discredit their political opponent by spreading stories about the son or daughter of those opponents which has nothing to do with the position they hold or are standing for. Any journalist or blogger tempted to publish a story about the offspring of a politician should ask themselves hard questions about whether doing so is really in the public interest. And unless someone is abusing their position, the answer is no.

Jeremy Corbyn attacking NATO

This is the August 2014 speech in which Jeremy Corbyn, now leader of the Labour party, said that NATO should have shut up shop and called on NATO to "Give up, go home and go away."

(Quote about 150 seconds into this clip)

Anyone thinking of voting Labour should ask themselves whether it is credible to suggest that Britain could work with NATO allies for our mutual defence if this man were Prime Minister.

Second Sunday music spot: Today's OT lesson set to music by Handel

Today's Old Testament lesson in the Anglican lectionary, which I read at St James's Whitehaven this morning, is Isaiah chapter 9, verses one to four, which includes a prophecy that the light would shine on people who had walked in darkness.

Here is Handel's setting of those words from his oratorio, "Messiah."

Sunday music spot: I saw the Lord by John Stainer

Nick Cohen on a worrying extradition case between Greece and Turkey

For obvious reasons most of my attention at the moment is on issues affecting Copeland but wises citizens of a modern democracy should not take their eyes off the wider world.

An extradition case in which Turkey is seeking the return of eight search-and-rescue airmen from Greece on the basis of the flimsiest imaginable charges of treason is an example of the international pressures on the principles of democracy and the rule of law.

If you have a few minutes to do so, I strongly recommending reading Nick Cohen's article about this in today's Observer, available on the net with no paywall at


Quote of the day 22nd January 2017

Saturday, January 21, 2017

President Trump

The election of a President for the United States of America is a decision for the citizens of that country, not for us.

If I had been a US citizen, I would not have voted for Donald J Trump. But he won legally under the rules, and it is unlikely that anything the Russians may or may not have done created that situation.

Which makes him the duly elected leader of our most important ally and one of our most important trading partners. We do not have to like him but Britain does have to work with him for as long as he holds that office. We need good relationship with the United States of America, which are in the interests of the people of both Britain and the USA.

For the British government to try to work with the US administration is not "sucking up to" Trump, it is protecting British interests.

Super Saturday

Many thanks to all those who came to support Copeland Conservatives today whether from within the constituency, other parts of Cumbria and the North West, or from much further afield.

We had four ministers, fourteen MPs in total, well over a hundred activists campaigning across Copeland in lovely weather in one of the most beautiful constituencies in the country.

From Keswick ...

to Egremont ...

to Millom ...

and around the constituency ...

we had a great day's campaigning, which lived up to the name of Super Saturday.

This election is going to be close. Stories planted in the press by Labour sources to the effect that their canvass returns suggest that they are going to lose and might even come fourth should not be taken entirely at face value. These briefings partly reflect expectations management and partly a civil war in the Labour party between the Corbyn/Momentum faction and their bitter enemies, with each faction trying to take the credit for good results and blame the other for failures.

But these "leaks" are an exaggerated version of what we too are finding on the doorstep - Copeland Labour is losing support because Jeremy Corbyn is not seen as a credible Prime Minister and people are very worried by his views on nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Labour's "Project Fear" tactics have energised some of those who were always going to vote for them, but possibly not enough. Meanwhile Conservative support is holding up.

There really is absolutely everything to play for and every bit of effort, every vote could count.